Slight Risk of Radioactive Leak Reported by Surry County, Va., Nuclear Plant : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Slight Risk of Radioactive Leak Reported by Surry County, Va., Nuclear Plant

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Publication date: Feb 01, 2000

(By Tom Fredrickson, Daily Press, Newport News, Va. )

Feb. 1--SURRY COUNTY, Va.--Maintenance work at the Surry nuclear plant last week inadvertently created the potential for a small release of radioactive steam, Virginia Power told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

No release occurred, according to Virginia Power and NRC officials. "If a worst case accident happened, there could have been a slight increase in the radiation released into the environment," said David Christian, vice president of nuclear operations.

A worst-case accident would consist of a break at both ends of a main coolant pipe simultaneously with the loss of off-site power, Christian said. The odds of that happening are very remote, but the utility is required to report any potential release of radioactivity, utility officials said.

As outlined in a NRC event report, the potential problem lasted for about one hour Jan. 25. Testing revealed that a valve inside the No. 2 reactor containment building didn't stroke at the right speed.

Plant officials replaced the valve. The valve's function is to control the flow of water pumped from the sump below the reactor area. Condensation and small leaks develop during normal operation, and the removal system pumps water out to an adjacent treatment building.

Removal of the interior valve didn't increase the likelihood of radioactive water leaking out because it's located high above the sump, Christian said.

But with the valve removed and the pipe disconnected, air and radioactive steam could have hissed out. That wouldn't happen except in extreme conditions because the containment building is de-pressurized: air would normally leak in, not out, he said. In order for gas to actually leave the containment building, the entire plant would have to lose primary and generator power simultaneously with an accident such as a coolant pipe breaking.

If the gas escaped the containment building, it could have gotten into the atmosphere. The treatment building is not designed to be leak-tight, said Roger Hannah, NRC public affairs officer.

Before the gas could escape, however, it would have to get past a second valve.

Here's why there was a problem last week: Two days after replacing the first valve, plant officials discovered the second valve was incapable of adequately slowing down a burst of steam and air. It leaked during a test.

The valve could release 182 cubic feet of gas in an hour, compared to its allowed limit of 180 cubic feet. That's roughly comparable to the air squirting out of a bicycle tire valve when you attach a pump, Christian said.

Virginia Power officials said they didn't test the outside valve before removing the inside valve because it's not their normal procedure. That, however, is now subject to review. Even if the release had occurred, though, the radioactive gas would have traveled through a circuitous system of pipes and water tanks, limiting the possibility of a release into the atmosphere, utility officials said.

NRC inspectors permanently stationed at the Surry plant will put together an inspection report. "If there is potential for a violation, our staff will look and decide whether or not to issue a fine," Hannah said.


-- Carl Jenkins (, February 03, 2000


To fully understand the threats which nuclear reactors present on an ongoing basis, see:

"The Truth About Chernobyl"


"Nuclear Accidents: Overview"


"You have to be kidding......right?"


"Houston...we have a problem"

follow the links and/or search "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" in the text. This paper was described as "The definitive and most current assessment of nuclear reactor safety & Y2K". It was also distributed among the House Special Hearings on Y2K & Nuclear Reactor Safety panel members and participants. When you finish reading; you will understand what we are facing...with or without "Y2K problems"...they ain't the only ones, for sure.


-- steve (WhoCares@nymore.Right?com), February 03, 2000.

Thanks steve, great links as always!

-- Carl Jenkins (, February 03, 2000.

Risks v. Stakes: "slight" leak .......


-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), February 03, 2000.

Hmmm, I live like 5 mi downwind from this puppy, and I only hear of this here and now. The irony is if I bother to mention this incident to anyone, they won't believe it, regardless of how "common" it may be. Ah well.

-- Hokie (, February 03, 2000.

Zog ain't too shabby neither....huh?


-- steve (Zog@Cares.See?com), February 04, 2000.

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